If you have found yourself unable to come to an agreement with another individual or company, you may be wondering what your legal options are. Most people assume that when you are unable to solve issues relating to money, custody, or other important topics that the next step is to take the issue to the court. Thankfully, there are other options that are less costly to both parties and that spare the court from taking time on issues that can be resolved more easily.

A couple of options available to you are mediation and arbitration. Though they both help you to avoid going to court, they are very different in style and manner of conflict resolution. Knowing the difference between the two could help you to have a better chance of resolving your issue in a way that benefits you. Regardless of which option you choose, if any, it’s important to still have legal representation in case you end up needing it. Law offices like Warren Allen LLP can represent you and provide you with sound legal advice when you need it.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can learn on your own so that you have a good understanding of the options available to you. Following is some information to better help you understand the differences between mediation vs. arbitration.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is probably the more common of the two options for legal conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It’s seen as the easier of the two and can involve the smallest number of people. Mediation is voluntary and often the first step people take when they’re unable to come to an agreement on their own.

During this process, a compromise is agreed upon with the help of a neutral third party. This neutral third party is known as the mediator and acts as a voice of reason and a listening ear. The mediator is often highly trained and works to frame the situation in a way that allows both parties to understand where the other is coming from. The biggest difference between mediation and taking your conflict to court is that a mediator doesn’t actually make any final legal decisions.

People choose to go this route when they’re unable to come to an agreement on their own or have been unable to discuss things without conflict. Often, it’s beneficial for both parties to just say their peace and express their feelings in a controlled environment. With the help of a mediator, both parties are often able to find some common ground and avoid going to trial while also coming up with a solution to their issue.

People choose mediation for many reasons, one being that it’s less costly than going to court. They also choose it because it is known to produce results in a much shorter time frame. On average, mediation sessions last just a few hours, and a lot can be dealt with during that time. The Civil Mediation Council suggests that 75 to 80 percent of mediations settle by the end of the day, with another 10 to 15 percent settling shortly after.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is another popular option for people looking to settle differences outside of court. This option acts as a step slightly above mediation, as it goes a different route to solve conflicts. It more similarly resembles what you’d experience in court. During arbitration, a neutral party or multiple neutral parties act in the same way as a mediator would. They listen to both sides of the issue from the different parties and attempt to come to a sound and unbiased opinion. However, unlike in mediation, the arbitrators’ final decision is often the final say of the conflict.

The less formal nature of arbitration is what often draws people to choose this option over going to a courtroom. It also allows parties to have the option to not follow typical state or federal rules of evidence. Still, when you chose arbitration, you have to give up control over the situation, as the arbitrators’ decision is often binding and can be enforced by a court if necessary.

In What Instances Are These Options Applicable?

There are a variety of examples of when these options can be applied to a situation. Actually, few instances are exempt from being able to use mediation or arbitration. Some more popular reasons why people seek out these conflict resolution strategies include relationship issues, such as divorce or common-law breakups. A mediator or arbitrator can help previous couples deal with issues like property ownership, assets, and dividing up personal possessions.

Another example of when people use these conflict resolution strategies is in the case of child or pet custody. Going to court over these types of issues can be a long and drawn-out process, often requiring large ending payments from both sides. Choosing either mediation or arbitration can save both parties a lot of time and money while still reaching a solution.

What Are the Differences of Mediation vs. Arbitration?

Though both mediation and arbitration are two great options for conflict resolution, it’s important to know the differences between them before making a decision. One of the key differences to note is that with arbitration, you often give up the right to make the final decision for yourself. Your fate will be left up to the person or people appointed to handle your arbitration, and if they side against you, you’ll have to take that as the final answer.

With mediation, you still have flexibility when it comes to what will happen next. While coming to a win-win resolution is everyone’s goal, that isn’t always the case when you have a sit-down meeting with an opposing group. People often choose mediation to protect themselves in case the meeting doesn’t go in their favor.